The gem mining industry in North Carolina has been a part of that culture for decades. When the first settlers came to the Smokies to put down roots, they discovered that the soil of the mountains contained precious and semi-precious stones. All of a sudden, the economy in these quiet mountain towns changed. People came to the mountains look for what they hoped would be the next gold rush in the country’s history. And while they found some wealth and they did mine gems from the mountains, the gold rush they were hoping for never really took off.
In modern times, the land that once housed big operations that mined the hillsides, is now a tourist mecca. And the people that still own that mine land, have decided to give those visitors to the Smokies the chance to try their hands at finding that treasure in the Smokies. You can pan for gold, sift in a sluice for gems and in some cases even go dig the dirt out of the mountain face itself.
Jackson Hole Gem Mine – Highlands – This roadside attraction on the road between Franklin and Highlands, has been attracting visitors for a long time. With the promise of hot boiled peanuts on the marquee outside, you get to sit under a covered area that contains the sluice or the water trough that you use to mine gems. The earth that you sift through has both native and enriched gemstone sin it. Experts are on hand to help you see what you have found.
Cherokee Ruby & Sapphire Mine – Franklin – The Cherokee Ruby and & Sapphire Mine tries to keep it ‘real.’ If you are looking for an outdoor activity this is the place to go. The natural stream that feeds the water flume keeps the water nice and chilly as it runs downhill. The dirt you are sifting through is full of naturally occurring gems, some of which are of facet quality.
Smoky Mountain Gold & Ruby Mine – Cherokee – In downtown Cherokee you can not only mine for gem stones but also pan for gold. If your children are learning about the gold rush, there is no better way to spark their interest in history then by letting them get their hands dirty. And at the Smoky Mountain Gold & Ruby mine you are guaranteed a find!